RALEIGH — Now that Triangle Transit bus drivers have mastered the trick of slipping onto the shoulder to bypass Interstate 40 traffic jams in Durham County, the bus-on-shoulder option is being extended into Wake County on I-40 and Wade Avenue.
As of last Monday, commuters can expect to see the occasional bus creeping anywhere along 20 miles of freeway shoulders between U.S. 15-501 on I-40 in Durham and Blue Ridge Road on Wade Avenue in Raleigh. Triangle Transit and the state Department of Transportation announced the expansion of the program Friday.
Bus-on-shoulder is an option only when freeway traffic stops or crawls more slowly than 35 mph. The buses are allowed to travel on the shoulder no faster than 35 mph, and no more than 15 mph faster than freeway traffic.
The bus must yield to all other vehicles – including disabled cars on the shoulder, emergency vehicles, and cars using on- and off-ramps.
Driving on the shoulder is against the law for the rest of us, but I-40 commuters sometimes try it anyway. Triangle Transit bus drivers reported only one incident where a car driver illegally drove behind the bus on the shoulder.
John Tallmadge, Triangle Transit’s commuter resources director, said bus drivers have used the shoulder option in Durham only about twice a day, but they’re expected to use it more frequently now that more miles of the busy interstate are included.
Triangle Transit driver Larry Villines said he never has to stop when I-40 traffic gets bogged down.
“With the (bus-on-shoulder) program and my knowledge of detours, I keep the bus moving,” Villines said.
DOT crews posted signs on the new parts of I-40 and Wade this week to notify drivers in Wake County about the bus option.
Meredith McDiarmid, who oversees DOT traffic systems operations, said DOT will consider requests from transit agencies to introduce the bus-on-shoulder program on freeways in other parts of the state.
Triangle Transit drivers will have the bus-on-shoulder option on I-40 and Wade Avenue for these routes:
• CRX – Chapel Hill-Raleigh Express.
• 800 – Chapel Hill to Regional Transit Center via Southpoint.
• 700 – Durham to Regional Transit Center (eastbound only on I-40).
• 42 – Shuttle between IBM and Regional Transit Center (eastbound only on I-40).
• 100 – Downtown Raleigh to RDU Airport to Regional Transit Center.
• 105 – Downtown Raleigh to Regional Transit Center.
• DRX – Durham-Raleigh Express.
Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown. On Twitter @Road_Worrier.